When you meet Amelia, you immediately understand why her family gave her the nickname Amelia the Great. The spunky 8-year-old with the infectious laugh has been through a lot. Three spinal surgeries, untold hours of physical therapy, a tracheotomy and too many needle sticks to count. Add in 50 surgeries – most of them on her brain – and you have one remarkable, resilient kid.
"Kids who weather so many challenges must have a strong support system, and Amelia's comes from her family, friends and Cincinnati Children’s," says Pam Murphy, Amelia’s mother. "She does not seem like a kid who’s had so many brain surgeries, and that’s why we love Cincinnati Children’s so much. It could have been a much different story if she’d been cared for somewhere else."
Amelia was born with spina bifida, a birth defect in which part of the spinal cord fails to close, and several other disorders, including growth hormone deficiency and a heart defect. Since the age of 3, she has been cared for by a dedicated team of specialists at Cincinnati Children’s. Despite her complicated diagnosis, Amelia hasn’t let anything stop her from playing soccer, being a cheerleader or sharing a great knock-knock joke to brighten someone’s day.
"Everyone she meets is a friend, and she’ll talk to anybody," Pam says. "She reassures nervous children – whether they’re toddlers or teenagers – and tells them not to worry. She does that sort of thing all the time – uses her experiences to put other kids at ease."
Because of her amazing spirit, Amelia was chosen as this year’s Ohio ambassador for Champions Across America, an annual program to honor kids from across the country for their courage and positive attitude despite enormous medical challenges. The program is organized by Children’s Miracle Network (CMN), an international non-profit organization that raises funds and awareness for 170 pediatric hospitals, including Cincinnati Children’s.
As a CMN ambassador, Amelia will represent Cincinnati Children’s and Ohio at various events, including a June trip to the White House to meet President Obama. In November, she and her family will join ambassadors from the other 49 states and a number of international ambassadors at Disney World to receive an award at the annual CMN celebration.
"Being chosen as a CMN champion is an honor for Amelia and for our family," Pam says. "She gets to share her own strength and tenacity as well as the amazing support she gets from Cincinnati Children’s. We hope to use this honor as a way to help people understand Amelia’s challenges and how living in Cincinnati, with Cincinnati Children’s in our backyard, has helped us face these challenges with grace and courage."